Lunenburg – The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board is holding another “information session” for western NS municipal councillors in Yarmouth this week. Why? To defend its decision to give BP a green light to continue drilling at unprecedented depths in the stormy waters along the Scotian Shelf.
“A growing number of municipal councils are expressing concern over the lack of public knowledge and consultation about offshore oil exploration”, says Marion Moore of the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS), a member of the Offshore Alliance. “The Town of Shelburne, the Municipality of Shelburne and the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg have all passed motions calling for a public inquiry, and the Town of Lunenburg, the Town of Mahone Bay and the Municipality of the Region of Kings have all written strong letters expressing concern. But what’s the regulator doing? Banging the drum for BP, the industry’s most notorious polluter! It’s completely twisted!”
“This ‘information session’ is nothing but industry propaganda,” says Moore. “The CNSOPB has a combined mission to promote and regulate the offshore industry, and has a history of touting industry-funded studies that have been shown by independent risk analysts to be invalid. This session is a clear demonstration of how the offshore decision-making process is tilted in favour of industry.”
The CNSOPB has feigned public engagement through short invite-only sessions. In May 2018 the Board hosted a meeting for municipal governments during which it shared an incomplete analysis of the effectiveness and toxicity of chemical dispersants, which paints a far rosier picture of the possibility of spill cleanup than is realistic. These actions serve to foster a positive regard for the oil and gas industry that is out of line with reality.
The regulator and the provincial and federal governments all claimed that any spill at BP’s drill site along the Scotian Shelf was “extremely unlikely”. Shortly after drilling began, a serious spill of drilling mud put the lie to those assurances.
“They underestimated the risks of a spill by a factor of 10 to 100, according to Dr. Robert Bea, a foremost industry risk expert,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “Given this expert assessment, my fear is that we will see an oil spill next, with devastating effects” Fitzgerald says.
“It’s time to stop and reassess this bad decision, not run a roadshow as the CNSOPB is doing, to tell people all is well. As a first step, the federal government needs to seek independent advice such as Dr. Bea's immediately.”
“No one likes to admit they made a mistake, but the risk oil exploration poses to the economic base of all our communities in Western Nova Scotia, not to mention Halifax, is too great to ignore”, says John Davis, Director of the Clean Ocean Action Committee (COAC), representing more than 9,000 people in south-western NS who earn a living from the fishery.
“We need a full public inquiry into the pros and cons of offshore oil exploration now, before any further exploration takes place. The recent BP spill simply confirms that.”
“Decision-makers clearly don’t have the answers,” says Davis. “Our renewable resources have supported our communities for over 300 years and Nova Scotians have been kept in the dark far too long concerning the risks of oil exploration.”
For interviews, contact:
Marion Moore, CPONS: 902.527.2928
Gretchen Fitzgerald, Sierra Club: 902.444.7096
John Davis, COAC: 902-499-4421